BOCA RATON — FAU is pulling the plug on its quarterback rotation, searching for the right formula leading up to its game at USF Saturday.
During the Owls' first two games, offensive coordinator Brian Wright rotated quarterbacks Greg Hankerson and Jaquez Johnson in and out of the game on a play-by-play, series-by-series and quarter-by-quarter basis as he tried to find an 11-man offensive unit that could move the ball down the field.
Through those two games, Wright's quarterback experiment failed. The FAU offense has scored only one touchdown, the lowest total in the nation.
With the winless Owls facing winless in-state rival USF this week, Wright knew the experiment had to come to an end.
A day after head coach Carl Pelini declined to commit to continuing the team's quarterback rotation, Wright announced on Tuesday that the Owls' starting quarterback will play uninterrupted for at least the first half against USF on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. and the game will be streamed on ESPN3.com.
"Whoever the starter is will have the opportunity to go longer," Wright said. "I would plan that you would see a guy for half the football game, for sure. [We'll] assess him a halftime and see where we're at."
Wright initially said Johnson will start Saturday's game against the Bulls, but he later hedged his bet, saying the quarterback who has the better week in practice will be the starter.
Johnson, a sophomore transfer from East Mississippi Community College, has started both of FAU's games this season, completing 20 of 34 passes for 145 yards.
Hankerson, a true freshman who joined the team during the summer, has completed 19 of 37 pass attempts for 150 yards and the Owls' only touchdown of the season. But the Boyd Anderson product's best series — the one that ended in the touchdown — came against East Carolina's second-and-third string defense in the final minutes of the Pirates' 31-13 blowout win.
Heading into the fourth quarter of the already-decided game, Hankerson was 1 of 5 for 2 yards, with an interception and a fumble.
"It was very disappointing," Wright said of Hankerson's performance against East Carolina.
It appears disappointing enough to relegate him to the bench.
Wright's move to the one-quarterback system is a push to find some rhythm in the Owls' offense, which is averaging 3.57 yards per play this season, fifth-worst in the nation, and has only twice been able to gain 20-plus yards on a play this season, a national worst.
The team's offensive play has been so poor that Wright said his offense is nearly incapable of executing the team's new read-option system.
"We haven't been able to establish our offense in either game," Wright said. "We haven't gotten any rhythm. . . .
"[The players] know we have a good system. They want us to come out and do it."
But Wright didn't want to say that the quarterback rotation was solely responsible for the team's offensive struggles.
"If a guy can get some rhythm, that helps him. But I don't know that it was a rotation [that caused] Greg to throw the interception or the rotation that got the ball knocked out of his hands, or that we overthrew a corner route — we just missed those plays," Wright said.
If the quarterback rotation is indeed declared dead on Saturday, Wright is hoping it will help bring the other members of the Owls' offense to life.
"You tell me who does exist now," Wright said. "We haven't gotten the ball to any receivers, we haven't had a running back get into any kind of rhythm, a quarterback get into any kind of rhythm, the tight ends into any kind of rhythm. I don't know if anyone exists right now."
Wright also said Melvin German, who entered FAU's pre-season camp as the No.1 quarterback only to be moved the wide receiver 10 days before the team's season opener at Miami, will not be factor in Saturday's game.
"He's got to become more consistent and understand what he's doing out there," Wright said. "That's the issue right now, when you don't have rhythm on offense, then you put a guy out there who doesn't quite know yet, isn't quite sure yet, then we're setting ourselves up."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun